Supplemental Security Income

Elligibility and application process

SSI is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes): It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and it provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

You are elligible for SSI if:

  • You are:
    • aged (age 65 or older);
    • blind; or
    • disabled.
  • And you:
    • have limited income; and
    • limited resources; and
    • are a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of aliens; and
    • are a resident of one of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands; and
    • are not absent from the country for a full calendar month or more than 30 consecutive days; and
    • apply for any other cash benefits or payments for which you may be eligible, (for example, pensions, Social Security benefits); and
    • give SSA permission to contact any financial institution and request any financial records that the financial institution may have about you; and
    • file an application; and
    • meet certain other requirements.

What is "Blindness" for an Adult or Child?

To be considered “blind” under Social Security disability programs:

  • Your vision is 20/200 or less in your better eye with use of a correcting lens; or
  • you have a visual field limitation in your better eye, such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees.

If you have a visual impairment that is not “blindness” as defined above, you may still be eligible for SSI benefits on the basis of disability.

What Does "Disabled" Mean for a Child?

If you are under age 18, you are "disabled" if you have a physical or mental impairment that can be determined by a doctor, which:

  • Interferes severely with your ability to functional on a day to day basis; and
  • is expected to result in death; or
  • has lasted or can be expected to last for 12 or more consecutive months.

If you are 18 or older, the adult definition of disability explained below applies.

What Does "Disabled" Mean for an Adult?

If you are 18 and older, you are "disabled" if you have a physical or mental impairment that can be determined by a doctor, which:

  • results in your inability to do any type of job and
  • can be expected to result in death; or
  • has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of 12 months or more.

Who is Not Eligible for SSI?

Some examples of who is not eligible for SSI include, but are not limited to:

  1. Someone who is a fugitive felon

    An individual is ineligible to receive SSI benefits for any month during which he or she has an unsatisfied arrest warrant for:
    • a felony crime;
    • avoiding custody or confinement after conviction for a felony crime; or
    • violating a condition of parole or probation imposed under Federal or State law.
  2. Someone who is in prison or jail

    If you are receiving SSI and you go to prison or jail, (this also includes correctional institutions, such as detention centers, halfway houses, boot camps, etc.) you are not eligible to receive SSI for any full calendar month you are incarcerated.
  3. Someone who is in a public institution

    If you are in any institution for a whole month that is run by a Federal, State or local government, you are not eligible for SSI for that month unless an exception applies.
  4. Someone who gives away resources

    If you give away a resource or sell it for less than it is worth in order to reduce your resources below the SSI resource limit, you may be ineligible for SSI for up to 36 months.
  5. Someone who is a non-citizen SSI beneficiary who fails to meet the alien status requirements

  6. Someone who is an SSI beneficiary who is absent from the U.S. for a full calendar month or more than 30 consecutive days

    Except for certain students temporarily abroad for study purposes or a child of military parents stationed overseas, an individual is not eligible for SSI benefits for any month during all of which he or she has been outside the U.S. Once an individual has been outside the U.S. for 30 consecutive days or longer, he or she must be back in the U.S. for 30 consecutive days to be eligible for SSI benefits.

How to Apply

You can apply for SSI benefits by:

  • Calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (or TTY 1-800-325-0778 if you are deaf or hard of hearing) and making an appointment to apply for SSI benefits. With an appointment, one of their representatives will help you apply for benefits. You can have an appointment to apply for benefits on the telephone or in person at your local Social Security office.
  • Having someone else call and make the appointment for you or assist you with your application for SSI benefits.
  • Visiting a local Social Security office to apply without making an appointment, but you may have to wait awhile.

You will have to file an application and include information about your eligibility for SSI.

Social Security does not have SSI applications online. Most of the forms to apply for SSI benefits are not designed for self–completion. Their claims representative interviews you and uses a personal computer to complete the forms with information you give to them or someone else gives to them on your behalf.

If You Are Denied

You can appeal your initial denial.

  1. Reconsideration

    If you disagree with the initial determination, you may request reconsideration by writing to Social Security or by completing a Request for Reconsideration form:

    You must ask in writing for reconsideration within 60 days of the date you receive the written notice of the initial determination. If you ask for reconsideration within 10 days, any payment we are currently making will continue until we make our determination, providing that you continue to meet all other SSI eligibility requirements.

  2. Hearing

    If you are denied Reconsideration, you may request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

    At this stage, you can ask for an appointment with one of our disability advocates at Molleur Law and we can evaluate you for representation. We will not provide representation until you have been denied at the Reconsideration stage.

    You must request a hearing within 60 days after you get the notice of reconsideration determination. Therefore, it is very important that you contact us immediately after receiving the notice of denial of reconsideration if you would like representation at the Hearing level.

    If your claim is denied at the Hearing level, you can appeal to the Appeals Counsel and then, if that is denied, to the Federal Court.


The above is a brief summary of SSI benefits, eligibility, and the application and appeals process and is not intended to be a complete and thorough description of the eligibility requirements, application and appeals process, or benefits available under the SSI programs. For more complete information, please visit

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